Ice Cream Man #17 from Image Comics recapitulates the Superman myth as a terrifying tale of insidious evil. Parker Paige is an intrepid reporter at the Daily World. Caped crusader Ice Cream Man makes her deeply suspicious of his motives. A visit to his Isolation Palace reveals his true nature. Can she escape the sticky fingers of the Ice Cream Man? Find out in our Major Spoilers review!
Writer: W. Maxwell Price
Artist: Martin Morazzo
Colorist: Chris O’Halloran
Letterer: Good Old Neon
Publisher: Image Comics
Release Date: January 29th, 2020
Previously in ICE CREAM MAN: There is no previously, only the unending howl of the naked void of a monstrous universe devouring its young with all the alacrity of a million spiders descending on Earth and eating humanity. The Ice Cream Man is the avatar of that horrifying perspective, motivated by caprice and a damnable desire to torture and torment until the last sun gutters into oblivion. In his hands, you are a fly, being readied to be plucked limb from limb…
LIFE IS HELL
W. Maxwell Price is certainly an evil genius, tapping into Morrison and Quitely’s All-Star Superman, before subverting it into a deeply troubling recapitulation of the Superman mythos. That’s not to say fans of Superman should avoid Ice Cream Man #17 like the plague. Far from it. But be prepared to be left feeling very, very uncomfortable with what you read and see.
And with Ice Cream Man, it was ever thus. Price delights in taking down the tropes of modern life. The suburbs become blighted wastelands, of people hiding behind their curtains while something deformed and terrible stalks the darkened streets. Interstellar travel becomes less a wondrous exploration of the universe, and more a terrifying examination of what it means to be human when cast against the grinding endlessness of space. The suicide of a man, with accompanying narration, is one long howl of denial at the reality of life and the utter negation of death. You want too, but in any issue of Ice Cream Man, you cannot look away.
While on one level Ice Cream Man #17 is a funny riff on All-Star Superman, Price delights in undermining the whole enterprise with a devilish wit and approach. Sure, Ice Cream Man is Superman in a white suit, and all the characters bar Parker Paige are eager handmaidens to his exploits. But dig a little deeper and you can tell how Price subverts Superman. Gone is the sense that one person is the saviour of mankind. As Price says near the end of the issue, ‘Salvation isn’t a one-person job…it’s on all of us.’ Oh, were that true. Instead, humanity under the reign of the Ice Cream Man is a placid lake of hangers on and do-nothings, willing to stand by while their lives are saved and molded by this super powered interloper whose contempt for them is boundless It’s disquieting stuff and demonstrates once again Price’s ability to discomfort the reader.
PAINT IT BLACK
Martin Morazzo’s art is, as usual, precise to the point of being uncanny. Any slight facial expression comes with a sense of foreboding. A widening of the eyes can convey menace, slumped shoulders and contorted hands indicate a crushing realisation of the futility of everything. Ice Cream Man #17 has no gore, or flying body parts. Instead, it builds unease through the unending pressure of the artwork, which piles the paranoia up until you find yourself looking over your shoulder to make certain you’re alone. Of special note is Morazzo’s willingness to abandon his own art style for a knowing nod near the end of the book to a very well known comic creator.
BOTTOM LINE: NOT YOUR MUM’S SUPERMAN
Uncomfortable, unfortunate and an unyielding, Ice Cream Man #17 continues in the same vein as its predecessors – an unflinching examination of the human condition and the complacency of men. The artwork is beautiful, it its own way, and contributes to an atmosphere best described as…disquieting.
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Ice Cream Man #17
Ice Cream Man #17 takes Superman, tips him upside down and gives him a good hard shake. This dislodges all our assumptions about the character and the genre in general, and makes us look at ourselves a little bit differently. Where Superman seeks to bring people together, Ice Cream Man seeks to dissolve us all into little piles of goo. Which flavor of comic do you prefer?